Toward a Theory of Social Change:
The ‘Port Authority Statement’
By David Gilbert, Robert Gottlieb, and Gerry Tenney
Editor’s note: The was a seminal document written collectively by a grouping in SDS, centered in New York city and Chicago, often referred to as the ‘Praxis Axis’. They represented several things: One, a continuing turn in SDS toward revolutionary Marxism and a further break with the group’s social-democratic past, as codified in the original ‘Port Huron Statement.’ Two, they continued as New Leftists, resisting being drawn back into the old polemics—Stalin, Trotsky, Mao—and instead looked toward other new leftists in Europe, especially French neo-Marxism and the renewed interest in Gramsci in the Italian left and the German SDS. Three, they wanted focus on the present realities and new developments of capitalism, trying to project into the future.
This is the first time the full document has seen the light of day in print. About a third of it was published in SDS’s New Left Notes, in a disjointed form; but factional struggle prevented the bulk of it from ever being published.
Some of the original Praxis group went with the Weather Underground, some with RYM2, and others to independent efforts. What is startling about the 1967 document is how prescient it turned out to be on many topics. It was affectionately dubbed ‘the Port Authority Statement’ because in was largely written and formulated in a small student apartment near the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City. It was meant to supersede SDS’s original Port Huron Statement.
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